Q+A with a Ph.D. in Management

Conversations with graduates of Sullivan’s Doctor of Philosophy in Management program.

Patrick F. Hafford, Ph.D.

Ph. D. Management Pat Hafford

Hometown: Camarillo, CA
Ph.D. Concentration: Strategic Management
Sullivan Graduation Year: 2014 (Hafford was Sullivan’s first Ph.D. graduate!)
Current Position: Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and why you made the decision to earn your Ph.D. in management.

A: I’ve had the opportunity to work in management positions in civil service, not-for-profit and corporate settings before coming to academia 11 years ago. At that time I had earned my MBA from Babson College and intended to be a professor of management and continue my consulting practice on the side. I became department head and then Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Wentworth. Once I was promoted to dean, I realized that I was the least academically qualified person in that position. I began looking for a quality, distance education program so that I could earn a doctorate while still working. Another very important consideration was that without a doctorate, I really couldn’t go anywhere else at the dean or provost level.

Q: Why did you choose Sullivan’s Ph.D. program

A: There were two key features that made Sullivan a clear choice. I followed online doctorate program offerings for a couple of years. What I wanted was a Ph.D. and not a DBA or DM or some other degree that required explanation. Everyone knows what a Ph.D. is and what it means. The second factor was that I wanted a program that had secondary accreditation. Management programs at Wentworth are accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), so I was looking for an IACBE school that offered a distance Ph.D. There may be others who do that today, but when I started I wasn’t aware of any but Sullivan that met these two criteria. I should add that I was impressed by Tony Piña, dean of Sullivan’s online division. I spoke with him and decided to enroll.

Q: Tell us what it meant to you to be Sullivan’s first Ph.D. graduate.

A: It meant I beat Gary Boettcher, my classmate, colleague and friend to the finish line! Just kidding. For me, it wasn’t really about being first. It was about finishing the work and earning the degree.

Q: Tell us a little about your dissertation. In what ways did Sullivan support you throughout the entire process?

A: The title is “Learning to Survive: A Mixed Methods Study of the Intersection of Organizational Decline and Learning Organization Practices.” This study examined how some organizations leverage learning at the individual and organizational levels as perhaps their greatest resource when confronted with challenges to their continued viability.
I was inspired by what I learned at Sullivan. I hadn’t really looked at learning organizations or organizational decline until I was exposed to these fields of study through my coursework.

The quality of support for your dissertation, no matter what university you attend and what field you research, is almost totally dependent on your dissertation committee and your committee chair in particular. I was very fortunate to have an exceptional committee—Teri Daniel, chair of my committee, LaVena Wilkin, director of Sullivan’s Ph.D. program, and Tony Piña. They provided the rigor and encouragement required to be successful.

Q: How did your education from Sullivan help you reach your goals and get you to where you are today?

A: I did this somewhat backwards. I was a dean when I started the program. What it did do for me is give me options for career mobility that were not available before. It also allows me to engage in scholarship, which wasn’t the focus of my MBA.

Q: What advice would you give to prospective students who are considering Sullivan’s Ph.D. program?

A: First, realize that this is not a part-time program; it is a distance education program. You will experience the rigor of a full-time, on-site program. The difference is that instead of being a teaching assistant or research assistant, you will have a full-time job and presumably family and other commitments.

Second, the program will be the most time-consuming and difficult thing you are likely to do. It will become a second full-time job. That said, you can be proud at the end that you earned a legitimate doctorate. Make sure you and your family recognize the cost in terms of your time.

Third, get to know your professors and the other students in your cohort. The only people who will understand your challenges are others who are going through it with you. When in doubt, reach out to them.

Q: If you had to choose one word to sum up your overall experience at Sullivan what would it be? 

A: Rigorous (but rewarding).

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